Prologue

   Throwing her handbag on the coffee table, Sheila sank back into her couch. Her back muscles relaxed into the fibers of the cushion, and she breathed a sigh of relief. Sleep teased her mind, and her eyes drooped. Though she knew she had to get up and change out of her mauve uniform and blazer, her body refused to abandon the tranquility of the couch. She was on the brink of sleep when she heard footsteps on the wooden floor.

   “I’m on the couch,” she called out, her words slurred with fatigue. “Sorry if I woke you up.”

   Silence.

   “Are you still upset about last moon?” she asked, opening her eyes and sitting up slowly as she stretched her back.

   More silence.

   Catching a glint from the corner of her eye, she lazily turned to see an odd symbol glowing on the front door that she hadn’t noticed when she’d entered.

   “What’s that, darling?” she asked, finally turning to the corridor the footsteps had come from.

   Sleep left her eyes, and her mind jolted awake as she jumped to her feet. Where she’d expected to see her husband, a stranger in a dark-crimson hood stood. A cloak covered most of his body, and only his eyes shone, glowing like two ghostly wisps beneath his hood.

   “Who are you?” Sheila asked, her voice shaking.

   The man didn’t reply. He stepped forward with a single-minded intensity in his gaze that pinned Sheila to the spot. Her mind urged her to run away and scream, but her body wouldn’t listen.

   As the man neared, a gentle breeze blew in from the balcony and filled the apartment. Like a meandering ghost, it whistled softly and blew past the intruder, flapping his cloak and revealing a thin blade in his grip. Sheila whimpered as tears blinded her and an unnerving chill ran down her spine. Whether the chill was from the wind or her terror, she didn’t know; maybe it was both. She was screaming on the inside, but her outside refused to mirror her horror. The man was now inches away. He leaned in and inhaled, drinking in her perfume with a deep breath.

   “Run,” he whispered in her ear.

   Like an exploding dam, Sheila’s horror imploded, filling her with panic. Adrenaline rushed through her, and she screamed, turning and running with all her might. She bolted into the hall bathroom, slammed the door behind her, and immediately went for the latch. She struggled to lock the door, crying out as sweat and tears rolled down her face. Fear had turned her thoughts into a torrent of panic and disarray. Footsteps on the other side of the door only intensified her panic and heightened her anxiety.

   “Help!” she screamed at the top of her lungs, her trembling hands still struggling with the lock.

   A vigorous tug on the door made her jump back, her scream cut off as terror flooded her mind. The intruder opened the door and stood quietly, watching her with his spectral gaze.

   Sheila backed away slowly, her frightened eyes fixed on the intruder. She was about to scream once more, but in a blur of crimson, the man darted at her with supernatural speed, thin blades clutched in his hands and odd symbols glowing on his boots. In less than a second, Sheila’s fear—and her life—was no more.